Archives for category: Training Skills

Have spent some time working on quick breathing over the last two weeks I’d like to move onto fast starts.  Fast starts in triathlon are important to help you get the most benefit from positioning in a mass start and are the opposite of how you would swim a normal swimming race, where a negative split (swimming the second half slightly faster than the first half) is usually the way to swim your best time.  So this week we are going to practise our race starts with some positive split 200s – meaning you swim the first 100 fast and then drop back into a steadier and sustainable race pace.


Please do try and keep the quick breathing going that you’ve been doing well over the last couple of weeks.  But combine the concentration on quick breathing with having a bit of fun as we vary the pace in the main set.  A good way to practice this is to leave a 5s gap and try and get on the feet of the swimmer ahead during the fast 100 and then hang onto their slip stream, without any annoying toe-tapping.  Similarly you can try and few different tactics, such as varying your pace a bit to try stay away from the swimmer behind if there is space in the lane, as you may need to sometimes in an open water swim.

Just a quick update about the fast the session tomorrow to help you get a bit more value from it.  Tim quite rightly pointed out that knowing the physiology of the your different energy systems may help you get more benefit from trying different ways of doing quicker starts in the positive split 200s.  For a really fast start you will be using your alactic anaerobic energy system which will allow you to go fast for the first 25m or so without any real downside physiologically but you will then need to back off a bit to ensure you don’t go too fast and fade for later.  However, in an open water start you may still want to go hard for more than 25m to get into a drafting position with a pack to trade off the greater fatigue for the added benefit of some drafting.  Have a play around with different tactics tomorrow to see what works best for you in different situations!

See you Saturday!


Photo by Nicolas Hoizey on Unsplash


Well done for all of your efforts last week with the quicker breathing and keeping it going through the main set.  There were occasions where I saw people slipping back into their normal slower breathing patterns but I was really pleased to see the efforts you put into keeping what you practised in the drills going as much as possible through what was quite a long main set.

The person I saw with the best breathing was Elisa in lane 2 during the second session.  If you get a chance please do watch how quickly and well she times her breathing.  She has worked really hard at changing her breathing over the last year since we first did these quick breathing drills and you can really see how well she times her breathing now.  She has also managed to knock 43 seconds off her 400m time trial time, too!

Changing any aspect of your technique requires persistence and effort but with time improvements can be made.  Changing breathing is a challenging change since it is one of those changes that doesn’t feel better when you start.  The problem is that you usually get less breath when you first try it, because you are more tense than usual as you concentrate on making a change and have less time to actually breathe, which can’t be good, right?!  Right!  Getting less breath is not good but quicker breathing usually also helps improve your stroke rate and helps your head position mean you get a stronger catch when starting the first pull after the breath.  So the challenge of making a change to quicker breathing permanently requires you to find a way of getting the benefits from stroke rate and catch but without the drawbacks of getting less breath.  My advice for how to do this is 3-fold:

  • Keep trying and practising and you will get more comfortable and less tense so getting more breath
  • Try explosive breathing – doing a quick exhale before you turn to breathe – to maximise the amount of breath to get each time
  • Think about your breathing especially towards the end of the main sets when you are most tired as this is often when you can get the most benefit and you naturally relax to conserve energy


This week we will be doing some of the same quick breathing drills we did last week before going into a set of fast ultra-short race-pace training (USRPT) 50s.  The quick breathing fits really well with USRPTs where you will need the faster stroke rate it helps you generate and stronger catch to keep your speed going.

Late breaking news: Did you see Katie Ledecky break the 1500m world record this week with an amazing 15m20s?!  If not you can watch it here.  See if you can manage her splits of under 31s per 50m for some of the USRPT 50s this week to understand what it feels like to swim that fast!

See you Saturday,


Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

I was really impressed by your resilience last week when I reduced the turnaround times for the final set of 100s in the second session.  After only a brief dirty look from a couple of you (mentioning no names, Selina and Simon) everyone just got on with it and swam the final set really well on the tougher turnaround times.  You need to be pretty resilient to be a triathlete, especially in open water events, so well done for dealing with the unexpected change so well.


This week we have the pool for 3 hours so will split the session into two hour and a half sessions as we have done before, so the second session will start at 8:30am and finish at 10am.  You will need your resilience again as we will be doing long sets in both sessions – 5km in lane 1, 4.5km in lane 2, 4km in lane 3 and 3.5km in lane 4.  So I strongly recommend:

  1. Preparing well, by bringing a drink and being on time
  2. Swimming well, by focusing on a good high-elbow technique, and
  3. Collaborating well, by working well and considerately with your lane-mates

See you Saturday!


Well done for all your efforts at the time trials last week, it was great to see so many PBs.  I’ve added the results to the time trials page in case you didn’t get the email.

This week and next week we will be finishing the 8am session at 9am to allow the Juniors to do their time trials.  The week after, on 5th May, we will have the pool for 3 hours so we will be splitting the session into two hour and a half sessions, from 7am to 8:30am and from 8:30am to 10am.

The main set this week is a set of 100s at your 1500m race pace followed by a 50m flat-out sprint.  This is a good opportunity to get used to a fast and relaxed 1500m race pace with enough saved for the 50m sprint effort at the end.  If you don’t know your 1500m race pace then a good approximation is your Critical Swim Speed (CSS) time per 100m, which you can see estimated in the time trial results.  If you didn’t do the time trial you can look at the CSS for others of a similar speed, which is about 1m25s/100m for lane 1, 1m38s/100m for lane 2, 1m50s/100m for lane 3 and 2m/100m for lane 4.

See you Saturday,


Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

It is time for the final set of time trials of our Winter training and I would like you to focus on swimming them with a good mindset.  Most of you are in very good shape physically, and have improved your technique over the Winter, so the other key aspect to putting in a good performance is having a good mindset.

Helen is much more on an expter on this than me and her advice for you all is that a good mindset to adopt is a Challenge mindset.  

She has written an excellent article for Outdoor Swimmer Magazine on this very topic which you can read here.

So what can you do to get yourself into a Challenge mindset rather than a Threat mindset?  I think Helen’s article has some great suggestions in three areas – self-confidence, control and achievement goals – so here are some ideas specific ideas that you may want to think about:

  • Self-confidence – many of you are great at encouraging others during time trials but speak less encouragingly to yourselves.  How about trying to speak to yourself in the same positive way as you would to encourage others by focusing on all the good sessions you have done in preparation?
  • Control – you can’t control how anyone else swims in the lane next to you, so how about focusing on what you can control with your effort and technique, especially if you know that good technique helps you swim quicker.  For the last time trial I know some of you tried this (thinking on just one aspect of technique each length) and found it very successful.
  • Achievement goals – focusing on a good achievement goal, like relaxing on the first 100m or saving enough energy to start pushing the 3rd 100m, are much better than worrying about what others might be thinking or what your time will be.  Focusing on how you want to swim the time trial will allow the result to look after itself.

So what are the 3 things you will do for self-confidence, control & acheivement goals to try and give yourself a good challenge mindset this week?

See you Saturday,




I will be away this week so will leave the sessions at the pool for you to put out at the start of the session.  You will be doing the Will Clarke main set of fast & steady 50s as it is the final Saturday session before we do the last set of time trials for this Winter on 14th April.

One of the reasons I really like this set is how it helps to improve your easy-speed (i.e. swimming fast and relaxed.)

It does this in a few different ways:

  • Firstly, the tight turnaround times at the start of the set encourages you to swim fast enough to make the turnaround times but in as relaxed a way as possible as you know you will not be getting enough rest for the good recovery;
  • Secondly, adding in faster efforts increases your stroke rate, which has a nice carry-over effect into the steady-paced 50s and many people find themselves doing the steadier 50s at a faster time and lower effort than they usually do; and
  • Thirdly, the continuous fast 50s at the end of the set, when you are tired, helps build your speed endurance for the tough final quarter of a time-trial or race when you need to try and maintain your speed and form.


See you next week!



Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Well done for all of your efforts last week in the fast-paced 100s.  I saw some more tired Triathletes last week than I have seen for a long time.  We will calm it down this week a bit with an aerobic main set of 150s.  We will also do a golf-stroke set to work on stroke rate and pursuit swims to keep your speed and work on your drafting and race tactics.

Golf stroke is also all about getting a good balance between stroke length and stroke rate.  It is a simple mathematical fact that your swim speed is just the product of your stroke length (distance per stroke) and stroke rate (in strokes per minute).  So you can swim faster by increasing either stroke length or stroke rate so long as you increase one by more than you decrease the other (if at all).  So measuring your golf stroke is a great way to see what works best for you to achieve this.

Most of us do pretty well with stroke length (distance per stroke) so this week we will work on stroke rate.  I find most people are better at increasing stroke rate, without significantly reducing stroke length, by focusing on either a faster push (i.e. back-end of the stroke) or faster leg-kick.  The alternative – rushing the catch – is usually a sure-fire way of reducing your distance per stroke.  So when we do golf stroke this week please try either the faster legs or faster push at the end of your pull and see what works best for you to get your arms spinning faster.

See you Saturday!


A few of you have asked me about the next time trials that are due at the end of the month as it clashes with Easter.  It seems the numbers will probably be low if we do the time trials over Easter weekend so I will delay them a couple of weeks until mid April so most of you that want to do them can.

This also gives us a bit more time for preparation so this week we will work on pace judgement in the main set.  The two drills in the warm-up are reverse catch-up and straight-arm recovery.  Reverse catch-up gives you time to keep thinking about being patient with the catch, as we have for the past two weeks, and straight-arm recovery a chance to start increasing your stroke rate ahead of the main set.

The main set consists of blocks of 4 or 5 x 100s with short recovery at your 400m race pace.  This is a great opportunity to take your time and judge your effort across each block and keep a consistent pace.  As I have said many times before, and many of you do know, most people will start to slow down in the 3rd quarter of the set (i.e. the 3rd 100 in a block of 4) so try and pace yourself so this doesn’t happen.  If you get it wrong don’t worry – that is why we practice and it’s a great way to learn – so do your best and play with your pace judgement this week!

See you Saturday,


Photo by Veri Ivanova on Unsplash

Please accept my apologies for two mistakes I made last week – for mucking up my blog post and for giving lane 4 too short a session.  Well done, however, for coping with my mistakes (as all good triathletes cope with mishaps) and all of your excellent efforts during the very high intensity USRPT set we did.  I saw some of the most tired triathletes after that session that I have seen so far this year.  What was even more pleasing, though, was that most people did the set as intended – swimming at 5s intervals and missing out 2 or 3 50s when their time dropped off – rather than doing the “I’m a tough triathlete thing” of ploughing all the way through the set without missing any out.  Given I hadn’t got my blog post published to remind you that was great to see!

My post last week was all about patience, which you can see here, and I want to continue the theme this week with the drills we will be doing before the main set.  We will be doing hip-connector drill again as well as reverse catch-up to give you the chance to practise being patient with the catch.  When doing hip connector drill aim to only practise the timing of the catch and not to get any propulsion whatsoever (that will all come from your legs).  Do the same with reverse catch-up and focus on getting all of your propulsion from the push at the end of your stroke.  Then transfer that into the full stroke as well.

The main set is the revised version of the Brownlee main set we tried in the late Summer last year with progressively-paced 100s of progressively shorter turnaround times.  As you do this main set please try to keep your patience with the catch and focus on getting the extra speed all from the back-end push part of your stroke and faster stroke rate.


See you Saturday!



Photo by Chris Coe on Unsplash

It was really interesting to see people doing hip-connector drill last week.  The most common issue it highlighted was many of you rushing the catch of the stroke and trying to apply some power too soon in your stroke so being inefficient by pressing the water downwards rather than backwards.  Although the hip-connector drill is really designed to think about timing rotation with your catch it did show up a rushed catch for many of you, which I was pleased to see you corrected when I asked you to be a bit more patient.

This week we will be doing some Unco and reverse catch-up drills before the main set and I’d like you to think about being patient with the catch by counting 1-2-3 with each stroke.  1 is when your hand enters the water, 2 is taking your hand to the catch or early-vertical-forearm position and 3 is for the push.  Take a slight pause after 1, 2 and 3 to focus on the next phase.  Having a bit more patience, especially after 2, is a good way to make sure your forearm is completely vertical before starting the real power phase of the stroke with a push.

For the main set we will be doing our first set of USRPT 50s for 2018.  This is a great set of high-intensity interval training and I have written several times before about how to tackle this set (in this post for example.)  Every time we do this set I am amazed by the number of people who do this set without missing out any 50s.  You do get a good workout by doing this but it is not the way to get the most benefit from the set.  This set is all about swimming faster than is sustainable so your times will inevitably drop off and when they do you should miss out the next 50 to give you the additional recovery to swim faster again.  So if you are tempted to try and go all the way through without missing any out then please try and swim a bit faster!

See you Saturday,



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